January 27th, 2016

Diesel Department – January 2016 Update

Class 31 at one end of the Santa Special service train

A belated Happy New Year to you all. As I write this blog, our most successful operating season is drawing to a close. Thank you to everyone who came down to the railway in 2015, without your fare money, we would not been able to run the railway or our vintage bus service. Our thanks also to everyone who took advantage of our £5.00 cab rides. Your donations to the fuel fund allowed us to run our big Diesel Locos on many more operating days than would normally be economically viable. The crews enjoyed your company in the cabs.

The icing on the ‘Christmas Cake’ was our Santa Special season, with almost every train being sold out. For me personally, the Santa Specials are one of the real highlights of the year. There is a Christmas feel good atmosphere generated here. The train was made up of five coaches, with ‘Jennifer’ – the little steam engine – at the Ongar end of the train – and our class 31 diesel at the Epping end; the class 37 was the standby loco.

Jennifer runs through North Weald

Jennifer is restricted in speed as she is first and foremost, a shunting engine. Though she is quite powerful, she wasn’t built with passenger loads and steep gradients in mind. This meant that the class 31 supplied the power for the train heat and also most of the traction power. She worked throughout the Santa specials and New year gala without fault; she thrives on hard work and runs far better when work under heavy loads.

Externally, the class 31 is usually kept in pristine condition, but following some criticism of her being ‘kept like a museum piece and not a working loco’, she was allowed to get slightly work worn and a bit oily across the year, which went down very well with the guys at the New Year Diesel Gala. Apparently the ‘work worn look’ makes for good photos. That said, we can’t wait to get the rags out and give her a good clean.

On 23 December, when ‘Jennifer’ returned to the Depot at the end of service, she was found to have broken the top leaf of a spring. Bad news for the crews, as it meant she was taken out of service. The class 37 took her remaining turns for the season.

A note of praise for our engineers, who have overhauled the electric train heating system on our coaches, and who have also uprated the battery charge system on the MKII coaches.

Class 117 DMU
DMS M51384

Much progress has been made with the Railcar. The planning is getting very ‘high tech’, with spreadsheets showing the predicted work and time scale, allowing our Railcar restoration team leader – Dave Hunnikin – to order the material requirements in advance. (And there is certainly a lot to order.)

There are quite a number of volunteers working with our body repair specialist on the project, spread over four working days; Dave sends out a work sheet each week with the job requirements detailed.

The scaffolding in the shed has been reconfigured and is now in its third incarnation, with an added board walk at sole bar (Platform) level, which allows safe access to both the body work as well as the roof. The scaffolding side of the shed has been sheeted off to allow the unit to be sprayed and reduce the spread of dust onto the other contents of the shed.

The roof has now been sprayed with self-etching primer. This bites into the galvanised steel roof. After the mammoth job of stripping every last piece of paint, the work on the new roof panels was completed. The new riveted panel joints were sealed with glass fibre and resin, as were the number of pin holes that were found.

At this point, our professional body repair man took over and prepared the roof for spraying, achieved by a very light use of filler and careful flattening back.  All the filled areas were then primed with a special green primer. After the self-etching primer coat was completed, a further four coats of special ‘Williamson BR standard roof’ paint was applied by our team of volunteers. Once completed, it was very hard to see where all these hours of roof repair were spent.

The main roof is finished in graphite grey, which is complemented by the white cab roof – very smart! One piece of guttering awaits refitting, and the new head code blanking panel is still to be fitted.

The new ceiling panels have been fitted, and received the final top coat of paint. This also proved to be a much longer and more challenging job than anticipated. Installing large areas of wobbly hardboard roof panels, in a confined area, without damaging installed items (such as the wiring, air pipes etc.) is quite a job. Due the curvature of the ceiling, the panel is at usually bigger than the area you are working in. The hardboard panels have to be bent very carefully as you offer them up. Additional fixing points had to be installed to give a hard point to screw into so as to stabilise the panels. The original insulation was refitted.

DMBS M51342

The other piece of railcar, the DMBS (or for the non-technical person, the coach with the guards van), has been shunted from the yard into platform three, to allow repair preparation work to take place.

In truth, the unit looks rather sad externally; she has been stored in the yard, and nature has attempted to take over. A couple of the ventilator gaskets have failed and allowed water to ingress through some of the roof panels, causing them to sag – not a good look. However, the DMBS was refurbished internally last year, and apart from the roof panels, generally appears to be in good condition. Knowing what the team can achieve, I am confident she will come out of the restoration process in excellent condition.

The Rest Of The Fleet

Class 37 during Santa Specials

Class 31 31438: Due to go away for tyre turning.

Class 37 37029: Performing engineering duties .

Class 47 47635 Jimmy Milne: Stopped again for work to be completed on pressure-reducing valves. When the current restoration work on the railcar is completed, it is hoped to start work repairing the roof to make the loco water proof. This will be another big job.

Class 45 45132: The Exhaust Silencer refurbishment has now been completed.


Until next time

Chris Travers
Diesel Restoration Group